Thursday 29 September 2011

Unrelenting Save Our Skyline Campaign Builds Support To New Heights

On Tuesday night Save Our Skyline (SOS) held another packed meeting to hear of residents' concerns about the Conservative Administration's scheme for central Hammersmith. SOS reported record attendance levels.

Developers Helical Bar Plc and Grainger Plc were appointed by the Conservatives as their preferred builders. They announced their latest plans in July.

Councillor PJ Murphy (Lab) attended the public meeting along with other members of the Opposition. He said "The Conservative Administration has lost all perspective. They have already wasted millions of pounds on this project. The fact is we don't need £35 million pounds of new offices for Town Hall bureaucrats and it is criminal to blight Hammersmith's skyline with high rise tower blocks; to knock down the cinema; and to demolish the Pocklington Trust homes for the blind."

The impressive residents' campaign sent a clear message that the current plans are thoroughly unacceptable to the vast majority of local people. I agree. I was at the Labour Party Conference on that evening but you can view my letter of support by clicking onto the attached photo.

Saturday 24 September 2011

A Depressingly Obvious Result At Last Night's Planning Meeting

Conservative councillors on the planning
committee unanimously said "Yes!"
Last night, on my way to the reconvened Planning Applications Committee (PAC), I bumped into a group of residents walking along Hammersmith’s riverfront. They were heading there too. “It’s a done deal isn’t it Steve?" One asked, referring to St. George's Hammersmith Embankment scheme. “I think so” I responded. “I’m expecting to see my councillors ask their officials some planted questions - ones that are helpful the developer” said the Fulham Reach ward resident. “Sadly, I think you may be right” I replied.

About an hour later and well into the PAC meeting, Fulham Reach ward Councillor Andrew Johnson (Con) indicated he wanted to speak. And, with a straight face, he asked the bicycling expert amongst the council officers “Would you possibly have any information comparing bicycle traffic studies of this development and the previous Goodman’s office block?" Adding with faux wonderment “I suspect this scheme might be marginally better?"... Surprise, surprise: the officer had that info and Cllr. Johnson’s suspicions were proved correct. The audience burst out laughing. “Do you think we're stupid?” shouted one member of the 120 strong crowd,"That was clearly a planted question." Cllr. Johnson didn’t respond.

So was it a done deal? All six of the Conservative members of PAC (including the Fulham Reach ward councillors) voted as a block and approved the scheme - but why? It was bigger than anything else in the neighbourhood, it flouted the council’s rules on density, affordable housing and the conservation area and is going to blight the Hammersmith riverside with some pretty horrible buildings.

Cllr. Alex Karmel (Con) then poured scorn on the Queen Caroline Residents Association. Their apparent sin was to mention in their objection letter how they were concerned about loss of daylight. "How far away is Queen Caroline Street?" asked Cllr. Karmel - winding up all the members of that residents group that had taken the trouble to attend. One resident spoke up in defence, "We are concerned about the loss of daylight for our friends and neighbours in Chancellors Road" he said. "We don't just care about ourselves!" The Conservatives looked confused.

Labour’s PAC members are Councillors Colin Aherne, Mike Cartwright and Wesley Harcourt. They asked questions about all this scheme’s obvious flouts of the Council’s and London Mayor’s planning guidelines - the audience loudly applauding each of their direct hits. But the Conservative members smirked and carried on – giving the impression that they knew the outcome because they had the majority vote.

Residents wanted to know about the all too cosy relationship H&F’s Conservative Administration had with St. George, the developer. The Council had acquiesced to St. George’s request to change their highly influential Core Strategy. That meant the obstacles stopping St. George buildings a block of flats on the Hammersmith Embankment higher than six stories were removed. The Conservative Administration did this despite St. George being the only people to request it and every single resident association in the area arguing against that. No one in the Administration gave a satisfactory explanation.

One explanation being put by residents was that the Conservative Administration had unlawfully sold the planning approval for a £13 million Section 106 Agreement. Could that be true?

I had written to the Director of the Environment on the 12th August and asked about the many meetings that Conservative Councillors and Senior Council Officials had with St. George. I asked him to tell me when these took place, who was in the meetings and what was agreed? I knew that the meetings had begun prior to St. George buying the Hammersmith Embankment site and had also included discussion about the Riverside Studios and Queens Wharf – which are within 100 metres of the Hammersmith Embankment site.

The Director of the Environment wrote back to me to say there has been “a very large number of meetings between representatives of the Council and the Berkley Homes Group (including St George) over the past three years” and these were about a number of schemes across the Borough. He admitted, “many but not necessarily all of which will have involved officers in my department, and indeed myself” but refused to let me know the details of this specific scheme because he believed it would be “extremely onerous and time-consuming to gather all the information you have requested” and that under the  "Wednesbury" rules I would have to detail why I needed that information. I wrote to him again on the 22nd August detailing why but still no satisfaction. I therefore wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive on the 8th September detailing more concerns and asked him to investigate what meetings had occurred, who attended these meetings and what was agreed.

By 14th September the Chief Exec hadn’t got back to me. The St. George’s scheme was scheduled to be discussed (and as it later turned out agreed) that night. So both Cllr. Mike Cartwright (Lab) and I wrote Cllr. Alex Chalk (Con) the Chair of the Planning Committee to ask him to get the answers to those questions. Councillors Cartwright and Chalk are both PAC members so are entitled to this information under the “Wednesbury” rules.

At 32 seconds past 5.00pm last night I got a vague response from the CEO. It was sixteen days since I had written to him but his email said he needed more time to investigate but he thought I could get my concerns addressed at the PAC meeting - which would still be allowed to go ahead.

Cllr Chalk had not responded to my concerns either. By the start of last night’s PAC meeting the only email I had from Cllr. Chalk was one saying that he had decided to deny me the chance to speak at the PAC meeting. This would have been a break in the convention that accepted ward councillors could speak on matters that affected their constituents or were in their ward. My constituents in Chancellors Road had asked me to ask about this development. It was about two metres from their homes, would block their light, cause disruption from traffic, parking and building works. I spoke anyway.

I said that the audience should be told that the vague, misleading photos the committee were being shown was from St. George not the Council. I asked about the committee’s knowledge of a deal St. George had offered the Conservative Administration that it could either have affordable housing or £13 million; I asked if Cllr. Andrew Johnson, who is also the Cabinet Member for Housing, had been involved in this housing deal and why Cllr. Chalk had failed to follow up on my concerns sent to him ten days earlier. Cllr. Chalk refused to answer any of these questions and suspended the meeting. I spoke to him in the interlude and again raised the seriousness of my concerns.

On return, Cllr. Johnson spoke first and said that he had not been involved in any of the agreements made between the Administration and St. George. He said he had behaved properly and in line with the strict PAC rules. I believed him. Cllr. Chalk called me to speak next so I made all my points again and asked who in the Conservative Administration had agreed the £13 million deal? Still no answer. The Committee moved to a vote. All three Labour councillors voted against.

A resident came up to me at the end, “So what happens if the Council did act improperly. Does that void this planning approval?” he asked. The answer is sadly not. It would get the Council into serious trouble but the approval stands. St. George’s diggers are expected on site within the month.

Friday 23 September 2011

SOS Public Meeting: Tuesday, 27th September 2011

The amazing Save Our Skyline (SOS) campaigners have organised their next public meeting to review the Council’s (and their preferred developers’) latest plans to build new offices for bureaucrats, demolish Hammersmith’s Cinema and demolish the Pocklington Trust homes for the blind.

The next public meeting will take place next Tuesday 27th September at Rivercourt Methodist Church, King Street, Hammersmith. It will start at 7.00pm. It promises to be an interesting meeting.

You can click onto SOS' latest poster to expand it to full size. Please feel free to print it off and put it in your window if you want to show your support for saving Hammersmith from a Basingstoke style skyline.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Comedy Of Errors Sees Planning Committee Delay St. George’s Carbuncle

St. George’s controversial multi-storey, Tokyo style, Hammersmith housing project was first on the agenda at last night’s Planning Applications Committee (PAC). The meeting was scheduled to begin at 7.00 pm sharp. An audience of about 140 people turned up to witness the explanations and vent their anger at H&F’s Conservative Administration for recommending "approval". But, the evening turned out to be characterised by high farce concluding with the Committee adjourning without a single decision being made. St. George’s application will now be considered next week at a special PAC. That is scheduled for 7.00 pm on Friday, 23rd September. Here’s what happened last night:

Act One
At about 5.50 pm I stepped out of Hammersmith Town Hall and bumped into the superb Una Hodgkins and a couple of other local residents at the main entrance. They were diligently lobbying Conservative Councillors with placards emblazoned with the words “Say No!” as they were on their way to a secret pre-planning committee call-over - where they hoped to agree what they would say and do at the public meeting.

Within ten minutes or so, the assembled numbers had grown significantly – many arriving with their own posters and placards. A cheerful buzz resonated around the scene. That caused four burly, uniformed council security guards to come out and form a line at the front entrance to the Town Hall. “No one is allowed into the Town Hall until we authorise it” said one.

I was surprised to see a large contingent of representatives from St. George also turn up. Their MD told me they’d read of the planned protest on Save Our Riverfront’s (SOR) website. They had come early and in force as a consequence.

By around 6.30 pm there were about 100 people waiting outside the front door. A council official stepped out to say he’d been instructed to only allow 80 people in – the others would be turned away. The St. George contingent quickly rushed to the front of the queue. Residents were taken aback and rightly upset.

I popped back into the Town Hall and found an official in a side corridor. I asked him to interrupt the Conservatives’ pre-meeting and to get them to sort this out.

There had been over 150 people at Save Our Riverfront’s (SOR) meeting last week. Residents told me they expected similar numbers at last night’s PAC but guessed there could be as many as 300. The assembled people said they found it hard to believe that H&F Council had not planned to accommodate them – especially as last week’s meeting had been attended by the Leader of the Council and the Borough’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, along with all three Fulham Reach Conservative ward councillors. They should have seen the numbers then and expected at least the same for last night. That failure to act didn't reflect well on any of them.

Shortly before 7.00 pm, two officials arrived at the front door. The crowd went quiet, “The Chairman of the Planning Committee has agreed to let you all in and we’re moving the meeting to the Assembly Hall” said one. A cheer went up. We were told it would delay things by half an hour as chairs, tables and technical support would need to be arranged.

Act Two
By 7.15ish, people began to file into the Assembly Hall. That is a vast room with high municipal ceilings, wooden floors and echoing acoustics. A neat rectangle of chairs was laid out for the public about twenty feet away from an equally neat square of tables and chairs set aside for the committee and planning officials. The three Labour PAC members were already seated. The Conservatives and their officials' seats were empty. We waited.

Just over ten minutes later the Conservatives arrived looking flustered. Officials fiddled with an array of wires, computers, presentation screens and microphones. Then at 7.30 pm Cllr. Alex Chalk (Con), the Chair of PAC, announced that there would be another five minute delay.

About another ten minutes passed and none of the electrics were yet working. Cllr Chalk spoke again thanking people for their patience and asking us to bear with him for another five minutes.

By 8.00 pm a slow hand clap started but died out after five minutes or so. At 8.10 pm Cllr. Chalk stood up for what appeared to be the final time. “I am sorry to tell you that we cannot get the presentation or audio equipment to work.” He went on to tell us that the presentation screen was particularly important. “We will have to adjourn to another date” he said. But just at that exact point the screen came to life. “We have visual” shouted one of the technicians. The meeting was on.

Act Three
There were still no microphones. Someone in the audience suggested that the public might be able to hear better if they moved the chairs closer to the Committee’s table. All agreed. And so I sat and watched in amazed admiration as almost all of the individual members of the 140 strong crowd moved in unison across the empty space. The majority took advantage of a machine-like manoeuvre which involved remaining seated while repeatedly pulling oneself forward by outstretched legs. It couldn’t have been more beautifully choreographed if someone had tried. A clunk, clunk, clunk noise reverberated around the Assembly Hall as the group collectively progressed towards us at a regal pace - eventually enveloping an almost perfect U shape around the committee tables. Now we were all seated just a couple of feet or so away from each other. Everyone would be able to hear.

Cllr. Chalk took charge. He opened the re-convened meeting. “Minutes?” he asked. “Agreed” they said. "Apologies" was next and we were sailing through the agenda at an impressive pace. We came to “Fulham Reach.” It was item number one. All smiled as the presentation dutifully flickered onto the screen and a planning officer was called to his feet to present his report.

He began to read out the first few lines of his talk. He had a gentle, quiet voice. “We can’t hear you!” said someone from across the hall. The officer stopped nervously and began again but spoke at the same decibel level. “We really can’t hear you” said another. Cllr. Chalk lent over and spoke directly to the officer. “Could you possibly talk a little louder?” he asked politely. The officer resumed but no luck – now the audience were becoming frustrated. Cllr. Chalk called for a vote on whether or not to proceed. The St. George delegation’s hands shot up and swung it for the “Yes” camp. So on we went.

The officer remained inaudible. “Has the Council got a megaphone?” asked one person. A gentleman with a cockney accent, and a voice I’m advised is described in operatic circles as ‘basso profondo,’ kindly offered his assistance adding "I cun read it awt for ya?" Someone else suggested that people might hear the presentation if the officer stood in a different part of the hall. The more the helpful interventions flowed, the more that poor man’s voice faltered. It wasn’t going to work.

Cllr. Chalk conferred with his fellow Conservatives. “I’m afraid this isn’t working. We will have to adjourn” he advised. All agreed.

It was now around 8.30 pm. There was a quiet anger as people left: “incompetent!” said one, “ridiculous” another added - clearly referring to their Conservative councillors who had failed to get the Council to accommodate them as it was obvious to all that officials had done everything they could once they were told to move the meeting. Residents were genuinely disbelieving how events unfolded that evening despite having witnessed every bit of it.

St. George's delegation was some of the last to leave the hall. I watched as people filed out and found myself standing next to someone from that firm. “So that went well then?” I said, attempting a joke to lighten the situation. But he was in no mood for humour. He was furious.

Social Change Through Housing Benefits Cuts Again Misreported By H&F Council

Tuesday night’s Housing, Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee again considered the housing benefits (HB) and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cuts

The Administration presented a report that omitted to inform the committee the full picture on the basis that it was too complex to compile. If they had purposefully set out to mislead new councillors still learning about this subject they couldn’t have done a better job.

There are almost 25,000 Hammersmith and Fulham Borough residents in receipt of housing benefits but the Administration chose just to talk about the 546 households it has an on-going relationship with. There is plenty of independent research that says thousands of households will be forced to move out of high value areas like Hammersmith and Fulham because of the Government’s cuts. It was only last November that a senior official told the Select Committee that he didn't know whether this would induce “a small wave of homelessness applications or a homeless Tsunami.” 

Earlier this year I had written to the Director of Education asking him about how this would affect local schools. He has since carried out research to answer that question. “Where is that?” I asked. The Housing Department hadn’t brought it along. There was no good explanation.

The last Borough Select Committee meetings on HB/LHA was last March and in November last year. Those meeting were quite disgraceful and caused H&F Council to be spotlighted by a number of charities and national media. It was a shame that hadn’t caused them to alter their approach.

The new Chair of the Housing Select Committee promised that we will review all these matters at the January meeting. I was glad she took such a clear line. I'll let you know what happens then.

Monday 12 September 2011

Phibbs Spotlights H&F Council’s Corrupted Political Processes

Cllr. Harry Phibbs brings his record on
public service and extra pay back to the fore
Over the last year or so there has been a new approach at H&F Council’s Cabinet Meetings. The Opposition have been forbidden by Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con) the Leader of the Council to ask questions and, at times, even speak.

The meetings can sometimes be over in just five minutes. Usually, Cllr. Greenhalgh shouts out a series of numbers relating to agenda items and his colleagues obediently respond with the words “Agreed!” The real discussions have always taken place days before at a secret call-over meeting.

On the occasions that my Opposition colleagues and I have been able to garner some form of response it’s hardly been what one might expect from a government institution in the world’s oldest democracy. Consider the Cabinet Meetings on the 18th July 2011. Cllr. Greenhalgh refused to allow any of the Opposition to ask questions or even speak at the packed public meeting - I spoke anyway. Or take the one on 20th June 2011: My fellow Opposition Councillors wanted to ask about the tri-borough deal with K&C and Westminster councils. Cllr. Greenhalgh asked why we had “bothered to turn up”, forbade any questions or comments from my colleagues and said I could make a short statement. He then announced that if we wanted questions answered we should write to him or his officials (which we had done anyway). The meeting on 9th May 2011 was similar.

We did get to ask questions at the Cabinet Meeting on 18th April 2011. But when Cllr. Greg Smith (Con), H&F's Cabinet Member for Residents' Services, was asked about proposals to sell off homes on a Fulham estate because of his Administration’s self-confessed “failure to cut crime,” he responded with the words “You tw*t!” and followed that up with a tirade of other foul-mouthed abuse. The public have been met with similar condescension even when they turn up in their hundreds as they did over the sell off of our local ‘Big Society’ voluntary clubs or the demolition of Shepherds Bush market. 

So I was a touch surprised to return from summer holiday early Tuesday evening to be told that H&F Conservatives were crowing that Labour hadn't turned up to last Monday’s Cabinet Meeting. Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con) detailed the council allowances of each Labour councillor (odd given his dubious record on council pay) and told his readers that this meant that the Opposition had therefore failed to “hold [his] administration to account” or “to provide some [necessary] rigour in the decision making process.”

The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle was even suckered into running Cllr. Phibbs’ spin on page two of their current edition. This being an apparent break in the Chronicle's boycott, of sorts. Back on the 14th June 2011 one of their employees had told me they’d decided not to report anything about the activities of Labour Opposition Councillors - a strange decision for a self-proclaimed "proper paper."

Cllr. Phibbs and his colleagues can’t have it both ways. He knows full well that the Conservative Administration have corrupted the democratic processes. That’s not just at Cabinet Meetings - were the Opposition do not have speaking or voting rights but at Full Council, Select Committee and Planning Applications Committee meetings where we do.

The Borough’s Full Council Meetings are manipulated to stop the Opposition even talking about subjects that may upset the ruling Conservative Administration - such as closing down homeless charities or debating the Administration’s approach to crime reduction.

The Conservatives actually cut back the number of the Borough’s Select Committees because they couldn’t get Conservative Councillors to attend or ask questions. Even then these meetings are very weak with, for example, this year the Conservatives actually voting to go to the pub rather than ask about the Council’s controversial budget.

The Planning Application Committee meetings, which are supposedly quasi-judicial, has long been thoroughly discredited.

There are 15 Labour Councillors and 31 Conservative Councillors. We cannot out vote them. Despite this we have still forced H&F’s Conservative Administration to reverse police cuts to the ward with the highest crime, reverse the 18% salary rise the Conservatives awarded themselves, reverse the secret 14% salary rise the Leader of the Council awarded himself and much more.

Ultimately the public are the boss. So my fellow Opposition councillors and I make it a priority to let them know what’s happening. We do this via the regional and national media, and given the Chronicle’s boycott, we rely on respected local websites too. We work closely with residents, local groups and associations and have uncovered numerous questionable activities the Council secretly tries to get away.

You just had to look at the expression on Cllr. Phibbs' face at Tuesday night's packed public meeting when I questioned him about his Administration's secret dealings with the property speculator responsible for the hideous proposals for Hammersmith Embankment - which he refused to answer. It was easy to see how he knows full well that this Labour Opposition holds him and his colleagues fully to account on all they get up to. In fact one leading Tory councillor once complained to me that I and my colleagues had made Hammersmith and Fulham "the most infamous council in the UK." I pointed out that he’d done that, I’d just ensured his activities were reported.

If Labour wins the next local elections in 2014 there will be a new, more democratic approach. We'll repair the Borough's democratic processes and we will work with all, irrespective of their party political preferences, to deliver on the promises we make prior to the elections in a publicly circulated manifesto.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Save Our Riverfront’s Packed Public Meeting Puts Council And St. George On The Spot

St. George's scheme comparred to its neighbours. Graph kindly
provided by Tony Boys - which he used in his presentation.
Graphs show number of homes and
homes per hectare
I got back from holiday early on Tuesday evening and headed off to speak at Save Our Riverfront's public meeting in St Augustine’s Church, Hammersmith. I was impressed to see over 150 local people there - especially as it was raining, England was playing a football game and the summer break wasn’t yet over for all our local schools. My fellow ward Counciilors Mike Cartwright (Lab) and PJ Murphy (Lab) were also there.

The motivation for such large public attendance was painfully evident. There was a shared anxiety about St George’s proposals for their scheme on Hammersmith Embankment which will blight that riverside spot for decades to come.

The question residents wanted to know was could they still influence this or was the deal between St. George and Hammersmith and Fulham Council already agreed? The Planning Applications Committee (PAC) meets next Wednesday night. H&F Council is predictably recommending approval. Will this simply be nodded through as a formality? Hundreds of local people are expected to attend.

Elizabeth Loudon chaired Tuesday night’s meeting. She is a local resident who has felt compelled to work with her neighbours to lobby against this horrendous project.

Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh (Con) the Leader of H&F Council was the first to speak. He confirmed that his administration had removed the planning guidance that had ruled out building anything more than six storeys high on the Hammersmith Embankment/"Fulham Reach" site. St. George had been the only people to request this to happen. Residents and their associations had urged otherwise. But the Conservative Administration acquiesced to St. George’s wishes. Now they plan to build up to nine stories high.

Tony Boys, the Chair of Hammersmith Embankment Residents Association (HERA), spoke next. He was followed by Melanie Whitlock of the Hammersmith Society, me and then John Jones of Save Our Skyline. The public asked questions and these were also answered by Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con) on behalf of H&F Council.

The following issues were raised: 
  • Why did H&F Council change its Core Strategy planning guidelines to allow buildings to be built higher than 6 storeys on that part of Hammersmith's riverfront? Every single residents group had objected to this. St. George was the only organisation requesting this to happen. What ignore residents and bow to the demands of a property speculator?
  • St. George's requeshad H&F Council had taken the unusual step of already agreeing a £10 million Section 106 payment. Could our Council have sold planning permission?
  • Why has H&F Council ‘tweaked’ its official definition of Hammersmith town centre to include St. George’s Hammersmith Embankment site? This has allowed the Council to now consider a scheme that would have far greater height and density than any of the surrounding buildings
  • Why is there no affordable social housing and why has H&F Council agreed to allow Tokyo style, studio micro-flats instead of the larger homes that Council says it needs in its local plan?
  • Large aspects of the plans submitted by St. George are outlines only instead of being the usual detailed architectural drawings. This is against H&F Council's own guidance and is also unprecedented. Why have they allowed this to happen and what does this tell us about the relationship between H&F Council (the planning authority) and the developer?
  • Why is H&F Council ignoring its environmental and planning rules to protect river views and fit with the character of the neighbourhood?
  • Why was the Queens Wharf site turned down 100 metres away for a series of planning reasons that should be equally applied to the St. George's scheme which is recommended for approval?
  • Why is H&F Council ignoring many of its own planning guidelines to recommend this St. George's scheme?
No satisfactory answers were given to any of these questions. At the end of the meeting John Jones asked for a view on the scheme. There was unanimous disapproval from all the residents in the room.

I have written to H&F Council to ask for details of the many private meetings the Conservative Administration and their officials have had with St. George. So far they have refused and won't even tell me when they met, who was there and what was agreed? I intend to find out.

So what will happen with this particular scheme? Councillors Peter Graham (Con) and Andrew Johnson (Con) are two Fulham Reach ward councillors who are members of PAC. Andrew Johnson is also the Borough's Cabinet Member for Housing and so he would have agreed many of the proposals for this plan. They, along with their ward colleague Cllr. Gavin Donovan (Con), were at Tuesday night's meeting.

There’s a majority of seven Conservative councillors on PAC to three Labour councillors. The Conservative Chair also has a casting vote. But PAC members sit in a quasi-judicial role. They are meant to make up their minds on the evidence before them. That should lead all to vote overwhelmingly against St. George's scheme. You'll be able to tell which way the meeting is going if any of the Conservative PAC members start asking officials helpful questions. If they do, it means they've agreed to vote it through at their pre-meeting - although Councillors Peter Graham and Andrew Johnson may be allowed to vote against it to appease their Fulham Reach constituents. We will have to see. It looks like this is a done deal but they may surprise us and listen to what local people want - which is a scheme more in keeping with the neighbourhood. 

If you want to come to the PAC meeting to demonstrate your feelings about saving our riverfront, then please come to Hammersmith Town Hall for 7.00 pm on Wednesday, 14th September. I will see you there.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Town Hall Demolition Chief Chairs Property Speculators Forum That Raises £150,000.00 A Year For The Conservative Party

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the Conservative Party set up a property speculators forum that “raises around £150,000 a year for the Tory party and charges members £2,500 to meet senior MPs to discuss policy and planning issues.”  It is chaired by Mr. Mike Slade, of Helical Bar Plc. That firm is one of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s preferred partners behind the highly controversial new Town Hall office plans.

The Telegraph tells how Mr Slade has been a key influence on the Conservative Party's developing planning policies and how he has also generously “given more than £300,000 over the past decade, individually and through his property firm, Helical Bar.” You can read the full article by clicking here.

Helical Bar Plc and their partners Grainger Plc came together to form King Street Developments after the Conservative Administration picked them as their preferred property speculators for their Town Hall plans, after winning the local elections in 2006.

Meanwhile, the latest Town Hall plans were announced over the summer and still include proposals to demolish the cinema, demolish homes for the blind and blight Hammersmith with Basingstoke style skyscrapers.

The local residents' group, Save Our Skyline (SOS) have arranged another public meeting to review this awful scheme. That will take place at 7.00pm on Tuesday 27th September at Rivercourt Methodist Church, King Street, Hammersmith. I'm sure there will be a lot to discuss.

Friday 9 September 2011

H&F Conservatives' Thirteenth Appearance In Rotten Boroughs. This Time For Wasting Millions Of Pounds On Un-Monitored Consultancy Contracts

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s exploits once again grace the pages of Private Eye magazine’s Rotten Borough’s section and for a record thirteenth time. Thus, the Conservative Administration now has the dubious honour of being the UK’s leading rotten borough.

Click to view
The Eye report that H&F Council commissioned a report from Deloitte following the controversy over some of its high profile consultancy contracts. It says that Deloitte found H&F Council “badly wanting in seven areas.” As a consequence it may have needlessly paid out millions of pounds of tax payers’ money to high paid consultants.

The report appears in issue 1296 currently available in all good newsagents.